Companion is an app that gives employees the guides and strategies they need to manage everyday work-related stress and anxiety. Companion was created in 2013 by psychologist Dr Robin Hart and product designer Dan Bladon.
Tell Us About Companion. How Did It Start?
I never planned to create an app. Back in 2013 I was really struggling with a lot of stress and it was having a huge impact on my mental wellbeing, and I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a hugely experienced psychologist called Dr Robin Hart. Dr Robin helped me learn tools, techniques and strategies to manage stress and anxiety using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and they made a huge difference. When I was feeling better I realised that those techniques could help other people too, especially if they were available anywhere and at any time. So Dr Robin and I teamed up to create Companion.
Companion is the go to app to fight stress and anxiety and offers clinical support to proactively manage mental health, both in the workplace and outside of it. The app is available for businesses and HR departments looking to support their employees and also for individuals looking for help with their own mental health.
What Challenges Have You Faced?
I think things have improved a lot in the last few years, but there was definitely a stigma around talking about workplace wellbeing and mental health when we first started. But I think there’s a growing realisation that these are issues that affect almost all of us: stress, anxiety and depression account for more than half the sick days in the UK.
Becoming included in the NHS approved Apps Library was a big help, I think. It demonstrated that our app was serious, that it was based on proven psychological techniques that really do work.
Did COVID-19 Impact Companion?
It really did. Like many other people we were isolated during lockdown. We were all trying to carry on normally while feeling this sense of impending doom.
It was good to see that the topic of stress was given attention by the media, but I do think that once lockdowns lifted it was almost as if the subject was put in a drawer: OK, COVID’s over, there’s nothing to be stressed about any more.
But stress has not gone away. There were stresses before COVID and they still exist, despite the changes in workplaces and livelihoods. And of course COVID is also having long-term effects on people: not just Long COVID but the psychological impact of living through really very challenging times.
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Why Are You Relaunching Companion, and Why Now?
We’re relaunching for several reasons. The first and most important reason is that we believe mental health support should be accessible, affordable and effective to everyone. The NHS is doing great work but COVID has really exacerbated the problem of underfunding and overwork within mental health provision.
We think Companion can help with that by providing discrete and accessible support to employees and individual consumers, without having to wait or book an appointment.
Another key reason is that COVID has introduced new challenges: the new normal is already looking very different from before, and entire industries are changing how, when and where people work. That can introduce new stressors too, and we wanted to be able to help with these changes, as well as the more familiar workplace issues.
Lastly, we are also relaunching as our experience working closely with various individuals and organisations has allowed us to take on board feedback and make the necessary changes to make the app as effective as possible. It has given us an opportunity to really refine what we do, to expand the app to offer more support and to make the help we already offer even better.
How Will the Relaunch Differ From the Previous Version?
It’s a massive update. We’ve redesigned Companion from the ground up, we’ve rewritten our guides and added lots more – there are now more than 200 expert guides in over 40 subject areas – and we’ve put every part of it under the microscope to see how we can make it better. It’s been lots of work but we’re really proud of the results. We think Companion is going to help employees and individuals nationwide.